Taco Bell Burrito Too Flamin’

Taco Bell Beefy Crunch Burrito

Taco Bell Beefy Crunch Burrito

I Paid: 99 cents for one burrito (prices may vary by region)

Taste: 2 stars

Marketing: 4 stars

Was it spicy heat or just salt that was burning my palate after I took my first bite of Taco Bell's newly reintroduced Beefy Crunch Burrito? And did the answer really matter? (The answer was, "A little from Column A and a little from Column B," as it turns out.) Each 500-calorie Beefy Crunch Burrito is packed with Flamin' Hot Fritos (ah, that "Flamin' Hot" is probably the source of the nondescript burn), seasoned beef, smashed-up bits of rice, a very modest amount of reduced-fat sour cream (why reduced fat? is this meant to be a diet burrito?), salty nacho cheese sauce, and 1,060 milligrams of sodium—a bit less than half of your daily allowance, if you're young and healthy.

As fast food goes, this sort of nutritional footprint hardly merits comment, but it doesn't particularly complement the "lose a bunch of weight by eating Taco Bell" fad that gained a brief and unlikely blast of fame when the Beefy Crunch Burrito hit the national spotlight in 2010.

And the flavor doesn't merit placement alongside Taco Bell's canon of lowbrow masterworks (see the Soft Taco, the 7-Layer Burrito): While the pleasant textural contrast of the crunchy chips wins some points, those're all blasted off the scoreboard by the burrito's acrid, one-note heat.

It would be nice if we could say that the junk food–meets–junk food cross-pollination between Taco Bell and Fritos was a one-off and not part of a greater trend, but other blips on the radar such as DiGiorno's pizza meets Toll House cookies indicate that this limited-edition effort represents a style of corporate synergy unlikely to go away anytime soon.

James Norton edits the Upper Midwestern food journal Heavy Table. He's also the coauthor of a book on Wisconsin's master cheesemakers. Follow CHOW on Twitter, and become a fan on Facebook.